It’s not uncommon that the office can become your second home.
And when you’ve been in the same office building for decades, moving becomes a big deal.
More than 600 Denver Water employees are moving from the existing Administration Building completed 40 years ago, in 1978, into new digs as part of the redevelopment of the utility’s operations complex.
We checked in with some long timers in Denver Water’s Administration Building on some of the memories made over the years.
They told us about conversations in the cafeteria, a baby shower in a conference room and the cashiers on the first floor who accepted payments. And, there were more obscure memories, like the helipad on the south side of the 35-acre complex and how the fountain at the center of the building was the centerpiece of a retirement party.
But one memory stood out the most. And that was about how work families were created amid the rows of cubicles, and how that family will shift and grow in the new building.
“I’m excited to go into a new building,” said Patrick O’Malley, who started at Denver Water in 1986 and now works as the CAD manager the Engineering division.
“Unlike now, my staff will all be on one floor. All of engineering will be on one floor, that will be good. It’s a new chapter for the organization.”
O’Malley, who was with the Army National Guard for 30 years, remembers the time he was at his desk when got a call from the Guard, asking if he was available to help crew a helicopter flight for Gov. Roy Romer, who served as Colorado’s governor for 12 years, from 1987 to 1999.
“I had my gear in the car, and they said they were coming in to get Gov. Romer. They landed at the helipad and the governor’s black car pulled up. He got in. I got in, and we took off,” O’Malley recalled.
Over the years, there’s been a lot of upgrades in the existing building.
“I remember (when the 1978 building was new) I received a safety award and $30 for suggesting that they raise the lights in the stairwell because people kept hitting their heads on them,” recalled Casey Funk, a senior attorney hired full-time in 1981 after finishing law school.
Funk started at Denver Water in 1978 as a summer intern in environmental planning. He remembers his first responsibilities included counting sheep in Waterton Canyon.
For Alan Crouch, a senior hydraulics engineer who started working for Denver Water in 1978, the new Administration Building will be his third headquarters building in his career. His first was the old McNichols building in Civic Center Park downtown, which housed Denver Water’s leadership from 1955 until the move to the operations complex off West 12th Avenue in 1978.
The changes over the years included upgrades in technology and relaxing the dress code — which used to require suits and ties for the men and dresses for the women.
“I remember we had a Univac computer for modeling the system. The mainframe was downstairs, and it took up an entire room. The software could model 2,000 pipes and nodes and it took up 64K of data,” Crouch recalled.
“Now, I have two monitors on my desk, it’s amazing the way technology has changed.”
When Arleen Hernandez, now a division analyst with the Learning and Organizational Development section, started in 1981 in the Engineering records group, her desk equipment included an IBM Selectric typewriter. Assistants regularly used “blue paper” to make typewritten carbon copies of documents that needed to be kept for historical purposes, she said.
She fondly remembers her baby shower, in which the men attendees outnumbered the women, that was thrown by the Operations and Maintenance division in Room 210 on the second floor near the elevators.
The fountain at the center of the lobby is a feature of many memories.
It’s sound has been the backdrop to conversations throughout the building for decades, to the point that turning the fountain off during the last days before the move created an eerie, unsettling sense of silence.
Then there was Human Relations specialist Ed Wakefield’s retirement in July 2012, which featured him in a T-shirt and Hawaiian shorts, sitting in a lawn chair, in the middle of the fountain pool the day before his last day at Denver Water.
Leaving the site of so many memories “is like saying goodbye to an old friend,” Crouch said.
Moving into a new building will be exciting, new and different.
“It’s a new chapter for the organization,” O’Malley said.
But one thing will remain the same, and that will be the people who make up Denver Water, Funk said.
“The building really doesn’t matter, it’s the people.”